After a bigamous marriage in 1842, my great-great-grandparents William Henry and Anne Amelia Granville spent the next 22 years working as school teachers in 8 different locations around Britain. They were then recruited as teachers by Anglican Bishop Tufnell, and in 1864 with most of their children migrated to Brisbane. Here their lives took some unexpected twists and turns.
Dearing becomes Granville
In 1818 William Henry Granville was born, but with the surname Dearing. He was the sixth of 7 children of a family that had resided in London for some centuries.
William trained to become a watchmaker. At the age of 21 he married Jane Judge at Saint Sepulchre-without-Newgate and the newlyweds went to live at Jane’s parents’ home in nearby Finsbury. There 6 months later a daughter also named Jane was born, followed by a son William George in 1841.
Here the story takes an unusual twist. In September of 1842, William bigamously married Anne Amelia Searle at nearby St. Michael Bassishaw using the invented surname of Granville. He lived the rest of his life as William Henry Granville, although he used Dearing as a middle name at times and it was included in some of his children’s names.
Jane and William’s daughter stayed with her mother, while baby William George was brought up by his father and new wife Anne. William was still in touch with his daughter and welcome in his first father-in-law’s home. I suspect my grandfather knew the reason behind the second marriage but he never talked about it.
William’s first wife Jane leaves few traces in records. In 1871 she was working as a housekeeper and living in Soho where she died in 1879.
The mysterious Anne
My great- great grandmother, William’s second wife Anne, is something of a mystery. This is probably deliberate, as the shame of her children being illegitimate due to the bigamous marriage would have lain heavily on the family in those times and led them to obscure the past.
In most records, she gives her place of birth as Aix La Chapelle, or Aachen, in Germany and her name as Anne Amelia Searle, the daughter of shipowner Joseph Searle or sometimes Thomas Searle, naval officer.
However, evidence points towards Anne being the daughter of Keturah Windsor and Joseph Searle, a shoemaker, and born in 1822 at Bovey Tracey, Devon.
The Granvilles in Britain
Soon after their marriage, William and Anne decided to escape over crowded and unhealthy London.
In 1844, William and Anne were living in Douglas on the Isle of Man, where a daughter was born and given the improbable name of Elizabeth Amelia Windsor Ann Barbara Mona Daymond Granville. By then, William was working as a schoolmaster.
At this time, apart from those catering for the wealthy, most schools in Britain were run by churches and there was little, if any, formal education for teachers. The older pupils taught the younger ones, with rote learning being the norm. In this way, one teacher could have a class of 100.
By 1851, William was working as headmaster of a school in Orby, Lincolnshire and Anne was also working as a teacher. The next year they were in Cumberland, followed by stays in Bedford and Buckinghamshire. In 1853 at High Wycombe, my great-grandfather Reginald Dearing Granville was born, curiously exactly 100 years to the day before me.
William took out a patent for improved firearms and cartridges. The family returned to London where he applied for the Freedom of the City certificate that he needed to start his gun manufacturing business.
Unfortunately, this entrepreneurial endeavour was unsuccessful, and by 1861 the family were in Windsor, where William and Anne were teaching at the Clewer Green School. However, their lives were about to change dramatically.
The journey out
William had been offered a position as schoolteacher in Brisbane by the Anglican bishop, Edward Tufnell. Tufnell, who had arrived in Brisbane in 1860, was keen on building up Church based education.
There had been ongoing problems in obtaining qualified teachers. A previous incumbent at Brisbane’s St John’s School had been appointed in 1859 without any qualifications or experience at all, based on his possession of books and musical instruments!
The Queensland Government offered both assisted and free passages for the long journey. Also, a land order system was in place that in effect gave land away to qualifying immigrants. My great-great-grandparents later took advantage of the scheme.
William and Anne, along with their four youngest children, were aboard the immigrant ship Wansfell when she cleared Gravesend in November 1864 bound for Brisbane, with 231 passengers on board.
The Queensland Government had engaged the Black Ball Line to transport immigrants directly to Brisbane. Many of their vessels were American clipper ships built for the immigration boom following the Californian gold rush. The Wansfell, however, was a rather small vessel for the task and not purpose built for carrying passengers. She was also quite old and in bad condition. After her next trip to Queensland in 1866, the Colonial Secretary’s papers noted that the decks leaked, and the berths remained constantly wet.
The Colonial Government appointed a ship’s Surgeon-Superintendent, in this case a Mister Fergusson. The surgeon was required to not only attend to the medical requirements of immigrants, but also to ensure their physical and moral well-being. In this regard, he had the authority to appoint a schoolmaster for the voyage, who was paid a stipend of £5. As an experienced schoolteacher, my great-great grandfather was appointed to the position.
The duties of schoolmaster included giving lessons to children on board for 5 hours every weekday. Beginning with a scripture reading, they mainly comprised the “three Rs”. He was also to hold evening classes for any adults requesting instruction.1 Many were illiterate and sought to improve themselves. The schoolmaster was to keep a journal and prizes provided by the Government were presented at the end of the voyage.
The journey got off to a bad start, with the Wansfell making very slow progress due to weeks of heavy gales. On the 9th of December, near the island of Madeira, a huge wave broke across the ship. Lifeboats, skylights and parts of the bulwark were carried away. For a while, before the crew managed to get the ship under control, the situation looked grim. The Captain’s log described how the immigrants, battened in below, were thrown together in the dark, frightened and drenched.
Immigrant ships carried sheep, fowl and pigs, and sometimes ducks, geese and goats. Until the introduction of preserved milk, there would also be one or more cows. Most of the Wansfell’s livestock, kept on deck, was swept away. As a result, the passengers’ and crew’s diet was severely restricted until a stop at Cape Town.
Meanwhile, tensions were mounting on board. Relations between my ancestor and the surgeon slowly deteriorated. William was critical of the surgeon’s behavior. He later wrote that Fergusson was “habitually intoxicated, that he was discovered in that state in the single womens’ water closet, that he indulged in coarse language, and was neglectful of his duties to a brutal extent“.2
William was also critical of the Matron, another position filled from amongst the passengers on board. Both he and his daughter Caroline complained to the surgeon of the Matron’s behaviour, but to no avail. The Matron’s role was principally that of the care of single women not travelling with their families. She was also charged with the oversight of the comfort and safety of the children on board.
William and Caroline later maintained that the Matron, even though she was travelling with her husband, had given cause for scandal through immoral behaviour. Further, one of the young single women in her care had been frequenting the second mate’s cabin.
The Wansfell finally dropped anchor at Brisbane Roads, near the mouth of the river, on the 21st of March, 1865. From there passengers travelled up the river to Brisbane on a barge pulled by a paddle steamer. The journey had taken 130 days or over 4 months. The ship’s previous journey, unusually coming via Torres Strait and riskily taking an uncharted path through the Barrier Reef, had taken just 94 days.
A few days later, William went to the immigration office with his completed journal to collect his stipend. There he was told that Surgeon Fergusson had reported that no schoolmaster had been appointed. William seems to have been paid the £5 and as a result of his critical comments, the Immigration Board decided to hold an inquiry2.
Letters from various other passengers arrived over the following months from locations as far afield as Mackay, providing evidence for the inquiry. Most supported William’s claims to some extent. A referee nominated by Dr. Fergusson himself damned him with faint praise stating that “he was never so intoxicated so as to be unfit for duty”.
The conclusion of the enquiry3 was to pay Fergusson in full and provide the usual free passage home. However, they noted that the Government’s requirement that all surgeons be married men had, as often was the case, led to the employment of someone with personal problems leading to excessive drinking. No doubt the low pay offered by the Government also played its part.
William and Anne, with their children Elizabeth, Caroline, Frederick and my 11-year-old great grandfather Reginald had started their new life in Queensland.
School teachers in Brisbane
Brisbane was rapidly growing. Faced with a severe lack of labour, the new Queensland Government instigated a vigorous immigration campaign. The European population of Brisbane grew from 28,000 in 1860 to almost 88,000 in 1865, the year of their arrival.
William and Anne worked for the next 6 years at St. John’s School. Married couples often taught together, with the classes divided between the boys and girls. William and Anne did so here, as they had done in England.
The school was located near the corner of Queen Street and North Quay at what is now Reddacliff Place, in a small building dating from the 1820s.
It had originally served as the convict carpenters’ workshop and later as the first St John’s Anglican Church. An inspector’s report from 12 years earlier states that the school “is in bad repair, the furniture is insufficient, but there is a fair supply of apparatus and books”. However, in 1856 extensive renovations were undertaken and a schoolmaster’s house was built.
The Granvilles arrived in Brisbane in the middle of a period of difficulty for the funding of church schools. In the early days of free European settlement at Moreton Bay, the NSW Government had paid teachers’ wages, but the schools were run by Churches as this was seen as part of their function.
After the establishment of Queensland as a separate colony, the new government removed the funding from many denominational schools, including St John’s. Bishop Tufnell waged a long unsuccessful battle to retain and then to regain funding, including giving public speeches and organising a petition that circulated around the colony. He faced opposition from the press, which was largely controlled by religious non-conformists who believed in State run education.
The Normal School was established by the Government in 1860. Not only was it near to St. John’s School, but it also had much higher standards, as it was established as a model for other schools. This was part of the reason for withdrawal of Government support for St. John’s.
William and Anne struggled for some years as their combined pay was quite low, even though supplemented by parents’ fees. The number of pupils fluctuated widely depending on financial conditions and the ability of parents to pay. School records are scant, however a surviving inspector’s report for 1873 mentions a total enrolment of 116, but only 65 pupils were present on the day of inspection.
The year 1866 saw the start of a prolonged depression and immigration was suspended. Brisbane saw a major food riot by retrenched workers. The colony’s woes were compounded by a prolonged drought followed by flooding. During all this, the couple were still bringing up their 3 youngest children. Twenty-year-old Elizabeth had married James Poustie in May 1865, just two months after arriving in Brisbane. It had been a shipboard romance.
Finally, in 1869, the Government re-commenced support of St. John’s School, and as a result, parents no longer paid fees.4 This didn’t remove the family’s financial woes. Early in 1870, William wrote to the Department of Public Instruction asking for an increase in the allowance he was being paid in lieu of the fees that he had been previously receiving. They were paying him a £24 allowance whilst in the years earlier he had been receiving up to £41 in fees.
The combined wage of William and Anne was £100 a year which was quite low, especially considering that they had been forced to rent accommodation for £26 a year, as the Church provided Schoolmaster’s house was falling to bits and dangerous to live in.
Fig Tree Pocket
Meanwhile, William had other irons in the fire. On arrival in Brisbane, the family had received land orders amounting to £72 as part of the Government’s immigration incentive scheme. This also entitled them to a further £48 after two years of residence. The land orders could be used in auctions, as the Government steadily sold off land appropriated by the Crown on the arrival of Europeans in Australia.
At one such auction held in 1866, William purchased a total of just over 56 acres (about 23 hectares) of land with a small river frontage for £133. The area became known a few years later as “The Fig-Tree Pocket”.
The name refers to the number of fig trees that grew in the area and in particular to a massive tree growing near the riverbank which became well known after a photograph of a boy standing at its base was taken in 1866 by G. W. Sweet.
William and Anne continued working at St John’s School until 1871 but became involved in local affairs in the growing community of Fig Tree Pocket. Residents were keen to establish a school to cater for the 40 or 50 children living in the area. A committee was formed in 1870, and William became the secretary. In September, he was able to report that the Government had undertaken to pay two thirds of the cost of a school and headmaster’s house. The remainder, £80, was raised by donations from local families.
William and Anne continued in a precarious financial situation, obtaining mortgages of around £50 on part of the Fig Tree Pocket property on several occasions, and paying up to 20% interest. Nevertheless, William donated two acres of the land for the establishment of the school and was offered the job of headmaster. The building material for the school and teacher’s house had to be transported by boat up the river, as the whole district was heavily wooded and there were no roads.
William resigned from St. John’s and took up his new role shortly after, in September of 1871. His salary was still only £100 a year but the family no longer had to pay for the rental of a house. Anne had ceased working with William and the school history indicates that he was assisted by a local resident, Miss Mary Jane Clarkson. She had been teaching local children privately before the establishment of the school.
William continued teaching at Fig Tree Pocket until July of 1874. At this point, the Education Authorities decided to transfer him to Georgetown. This is a remote town in Far North Queensland that at the time was the centre of a gold rush. Despite the offer of a pay rise to £150, he declined and resigned. Georgetown State School opened in September 1874, without the Granvilles.
William decided that it was time to try a new occupation. My grandfather told me he’d been told by his mother that William was fond of a drink. That may have been a factor in his decision to try his hand at hotelkeeping.
The hotel disaster
The first railway in Queensland was built from Ipswich to Toowoomba over the period from 1863 to 1867. However, due to the makeup of Parliament, construction priority was to extend railway lines to the west of Ipswich. It wasn’t until June of 1875 that the railway reached Brisbane from Ipswich and Roma Street Railway Station opened as the terminus of this line.
William decided that a good location to establish a hotel would be near the new station. In early 1874, he took out a £250 mortgage on the Fig Tree Pocket property to lease and equip a building across the street from where the station was to be built. The 5 year lease would cost him £50 a month which was half of his annual salary as a teacher. With £32 annual interest payments on his mortgage to pay as well, he needed to get his hotel operating as soon as possible.
Some modification was necessary, as hotel licensing conditions required a minimum of 6 bedrooms and two sitting rooms. A description of the Terminus Hotel appeared in a later newspaper article.
‘The hotel is built of wood and galvanised iron, on stumps five or six feet high, fixed in very soft ground. From the back of the main building a narrow attached row of rooms extends for some distance.’
Whatever work was done, William ended up in court as he had fallen foul of the Municipal Institutions Act. The location was within a “first class section” where the use of inflammable materials such as wood was not allowed. Somehow, he seems to have gotten through this with the hotel built of wood, as described above.
It was a risky investment for the Granvilles, as obtaining a hotel licence was far from a foregone conclusion. For an example of how things can go wrong, see my post “Nicholas Walpole Raven and the West End Pub with No Beer”.
The Licensing Board sat every month, and in August, William and Anne suffered a blow when their application for a licence was refused. The magistrates sitting were presented with a petition against the establishment of the hotel, as well as one in favour. Refusal wasn’t uncommon and the Board usually did not explain their reasons. They looked at proximity to other hotels, the character of the applicant, and the standard of the building. It was common to have petitions for and against although those against were often instigated by existing publicans concerned about loss of trade.
They tried again, unsuccessfully, in September. Derogatory comments were made about the appearance of the building. Finally, the licence was granted in October. That month also saw the marriage of their son Frederick to Elizabeth Eaborn. The month after, their daughter Caroline married James Arthurs.
The year 1875 got off to a very bad start. Caroline gave birth to a daughter in February, but her baby, also Caroline, died just a week later. Two days after that, Anne died at just 51 years of age. The cause of death is stated as jaundice, and probably she contracted hepatitis from poor sanitation. The town had numerous gullies which filled with putrid rubbish between periods of rain. When it did rain, there was no effective drainage system to carry water away other than what was left of the natural waterways. Cesspits were common.
Anne was laid to rest in the Paddington Cemetery, today the site of Suncorp Stadium. If the wind was blowing the wrong way, they could probably smell the cemetery from Roma Street. A few years earlier, a correspondent to the “Queenslander” newspaper wrote “At times the stench from the whole combined is so bad that the wonder is that half the city has not, ere this, been swept off with disease”. Around this time, both Toowong and South Brisbane Cemeteries were established.
The Terminus Hotel continued in operation through the year and the licence was successfully renewed. The family were all living together and Frederick and Elizabeth’s first child William was born at Roma Street in August.
Then, early in 1876, disaster struck. A freak storm with cyclonic winds, jagged hail, and blinding rain weaved its way through the town. Serious impact was only felt in locations directly in its narrow line, and especially in West End, where numerous houses were damaged or destroyed.
On the northside, a meter deep storm surge coursed down Roma Street and the main casualty was the extension with guest rooms at the rear of Granville’s hotel. A newspaper article described the damage.
“The stumps supporting this gave way, and one end of the building was lodged on the ground in a very undignified position, some yards out of its original place, the opposite end remaining suspended on its stumps.“
Some repairs must have been performed as at the licensing meeting in March, William requested the transfer of his licence to his son-in-law James Arthurs, which was refused. His father, also a James Arthurs, had purchased the hotel from William for £1,150.
In April another licence application was knocked back, as the building was not up to the standard of the neighbourhood. Later in the year, Arthurs sought a licence for the hotel once again and again was refused. In 1878, he went to the North Queensland gold mining town of Ravenswood to work as a sawyer, only to be brutally murdered with a tomahawk shortly after arriving, leaving Caroline a widow with a 2 year old son. She later married George Le Breton.
In 1876, the Brisbane Mutual Building and Investment Society sold William’s land at Fig Tree Pocket. The whole exercise had been a disaster.That was the end of hotel keeping, although William’s son Frederick eventually became the publican of the Redcliffe Hotel in the 1890s.
A new life and back to teaching
It’s not clear what occupation William followed in the next few years, however he remained in Brisbane. In 1878 he was declared insolvent with the trustee of the estate determining the distribution of remaining funds to his debtors. William mentions a cause of the insolvency was “Alfred Holland foreclosing on the bill of sale over my property and selling out in 1875”. He had an option to purchase the Roma Street property at any time for £500 and may have signed a contract before the storm disaster.
His debts were mainly to his suppliers such as butchers, cordial manufacturers and newspaper companies.
He also owed sums to the well-known Doctor Joseph Bancroft and to architect John Hall, who probably had worked on the extensions to the Terminus Hotel, and who coincidentally also designed Bancroft’s house at the corner of Wharf and Ann Streets.
The next year, William married Susanna Pangburn, who had arrived in Brisbane 6 years earlier. She had a son whose birth is recorded with a father Francis Lynham, but they were never married. She was just 30 years old whilst William was 60. He had, however, subtracted 7 years from his age when he arrived in Brisbane. This may have been to secure employment in the Education Department. Susanna perhaps believed that he was 53, and the age difference was not unusual in those days of high death rates and remarriages.
William realised that he would have to go back to teaching to support his wife and stepson. He reapplied to join the Colonial Education Department. They accepted him in December of 1879, despite poor results from inspections at Fig Tree Pocket School and St. John’s.
The remote town of Cunnamulla, 750 kilometres west of Brisbane, had a Provisional School. These were schools controlled by the Education Department but provided by local communities. The standard of teaching was often lower than in state schools and teachers were poorly paid. When justified by a growth in the number of pupils, provisional schools were upgraded to state schools.
William was offered a job in Cunnamulla towards the very bottom of the salary range at only £70 a year plus a remote allowance of £10, but he accepted it. There in 1880 Susanna had a daughter who died after just 2 weeks. Another daughter Ruby was born in 1882 and a son Ivan in 1885, when William was 67 years old.
The inspector’s reports on William’s performance at the school for this period have survived. At that time, inspectors held extremely powerful positions in the education system. They were meant to arrive unannounced, but the bush telegraph usually made that impossible. Their reports were secret, and a bad word could defer promotion for years.
William’s inspector’s reports contain comments such as: “a weak disciplinarian and feeble teacher “, “antiquated methods applied without force” and “the class is not satisfactory and little or no progress has been made”.
On the other hand, he seems to have been a pleasant person. One inspector described him as “intelligent, gentlemanly most urbane with considerable tact”.
Robbery under arms
Not long after their arrival in Cunnamulla, Susanna was involved in an incident that passed into local folklore. A robber, Joseph Wells, had entered the National Bank and was threatening the manager, Joseph Berry, with his pistol. William described the events in a letter which was subsequently published in a number of newspapers.
“Just before 10 a.m. she was in a room adjoining the bank parlour with the door open between. She heard the demand and the threat to shoot Mr. Berry, the manager, and instead of fainting or screaming stole out on tip-toe at the back and got the assistance of Mr. Murphy who rushed upon the bushranger, and was fired at and wounded badly.”
Although wounded in the shoulder after the bullet had glanced off his head, Murphy, a shopkeeper from next door, forced Wells to flee to the street where a crowd had gathered, having heard Susanna’s screams for help. Unfortunately for Wells, his horse bolted due to the commotion.
Wells escaped on foot but was pursued by a policeman and others, and was found up a tree. The “Robber’s Tree” is now heritage listed.
Wells was the second and last person hung in Queensland for armed robbery with wounding. This was an offence legislated in the 1860s in anticipation of the gold rush induced bushranging in southern colonies reaching Queensland. He was young, had no defence counsel, and pleaded guilty without understanding the implications. Also, the wounding was probably not intentional, and the pistol accidentally discharged during the melee. There was an unsuccessful attempt to have the sentence commuted to imprisonment and an appeal to the full court5.
In March of 1885, the Cunnamulla Provisional School was upgraded to a State School and William was dismissed based on three consecutive poor inspector’s reports. Just over a year later, he had a heart attack and died at 68 years of age. William left a financial mess. He had no will and had debts of over £100. He did have 5 acres of land that he had purchased in Cunnamulla, supposedly worth £200.
His intestacy file shows that efforts to sell the property continued unsuccessfully for seven years without resolution. Queensland had entered another of its periodic deep depressions and the land in Cunnamulla was worth a fraction of what William had paid for it.
So ended an interesting life.
Susanna moved to Lithgow in NSW. She married again in 1889 and died in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, in 1914.
Most references through the text appear as hotlinks to online sources.
- “Immigration Instructions ca. 1860s” Compiled by Eileen Johnson. State Library of Queensland.
- Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM846795 Colonial Secretary’s inward correspondence 1865 , Folio 770
- Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM846795 Colonial Secretary’s inward correspondence 1865 , Folio 864
- “The Board of General Education 1860-1875”. Department of Education and Training. State of Queensland. 20 February 2013
- “Armed Robbery in Nineteenth Century Queensland – The Wells Case”, Ross Barber. Queensland Heritage/espace.
© P. Granville 2023
8 thoughts on “The Granvilles come to Brisbane”
Thank you. What a wonderful read.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Paul, another brilliant piece of work.
Dr William J Metcalf
Adjunct Lecturer, Griffith University,
Honorary Associate Professor, University of Queensland,
Thanks very much Bill
Great account of your family history Paul!
Thanks Brenda. It only took me about 50 years to write!
I’m just a novice then, at 25 years! I’m sure some of my ancestors must be wishing I’d stop – the things I’ve learned about them!
Every family has it skeletons!